CLAIM: Yemen has declared war against Israel.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Yemen’s internationally recognized government has not declared war on Israel. Houthi rebels that control the country’s capital launched missiles at Israeli targets this week and threatened further attacks. But experts say the Iran-backed militia stopped short of declaring an all-out war against the Jewish state.
THE FACTS: Social media users are claiming Yemen has become the first regional power to officially enter the latest Israel-Hamas war.
Many are sharing a video of a military leader dressed in combat fatigues speaking in Arabic from a podium with a red, white and black-striped flag in the background.
Christmas decorations are seen at a Marks & Spencer shop on Oxford Street, London, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. Britain’s largest clothing retailer, Marks & Spencer, on Tuesday posted a 43 percent fall in net profit for the first half of the year as costs rose and the company cut prices to keep consumers coming through the doors despite the looming recession. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A Marks & Spencer ad did not feature a burning Palestinian flag
AP News Verification
British newspaper headline about a cease-fire is old and not related to the latest Israel-Hamas war
: YEMEN DECLARED THEY ARE NOW AT WAR WITH ISRAEL,” wrote one user who shared the brief clip in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “The Republic of Yemen is the first country officially to announce its entry into the ‘Battle of the Flood’ of Al-Aqsa and launches a large number of ballistic and winged missiles and drones at a number of Israeli IOF targets inside occupied Palestine.”
But Yemen’s official government did no such thing. The Houthis, a rebel group that controls the national capital of Sanaa, announced Tuesday that it had launched missiles and drones at Israel.
Israel’s military said its fighter jets and missile defense system intercepted the salvos outside of Israeli territory. The Houthi military said Wednesday it fired another batch of drones towards Israeli targets “in support of the oppressed Palestinian people.”
But the Republic of Yemen, the country’s internationally-recognized government, is led by the Presidential Leadership Council, explained Thomas Juneau, a professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada who specializes in Yemen.
That government, which has no relations with the Houthis, splits its time between Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, and Aden, in southern Yemen.
“The Houthis are the de facto authority in Sanaa, the capital, but it is indeed inaccurate to say that ‘Yemen’ (or the Republic of Yemen) has declared war on Israel,” Juneau wrote in an email Wednesday.
Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, agreed, adding that Iran and Syria are the only two nations to have embassies operating in Sanaa, underscoring the group’s lack of international legitimacy.
And while the rocket and drone strikes are a significant escalation, the rebel group’s statement stops short of committing to an all-out effort to destroy Israel, he said.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesperson for the Iran-backed militia, said in a televised statement that the rebel army would launch other strikes at Israel until it halted its attacks on Palestinians territories, which came in response to Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7.
“It implies that if Israel stops bombing Gaza they will halt attacking Israel,” Riedel wrote in an email Wednesday, referring to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory that has received the brunt of Israel’s attacks.
Officials with Yemen’s embassy in Washington didn’t respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday.
Asher Orkaby, a lecturer at Harvard University who has written two books on Yemen, said the Houthis’ decision to attack Israel is based more on Yemeni politics than seeking out war.
“The Houthi attack on Israel was a gamble on their leadership’s part to appeal to the Yemeni masses demanding violence against Israel,” he explained in an email. “After all, the Houthi slogan is ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’.”
The Houthis seized Sanaa and much of the country’s north in 2014.
The takeover sparked a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has killed more than 150,000 people and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
Associated Press reporter Jon Gambrell in